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Napa Woman, Arrested After Writing in Chalk on Bridge, Says She's No Felon

Jailed Tuesday on suspicion of felony vandalism, 29-year-old Amy Larson said Napa police first told her it was "no problem" to use chalk on the First Street bridge—then approached her again to ask for ID and arrested her when she declined.

The 29-year-old Napa woman says she is neither a felon nor a vandal and that police listed her as a transient because she refused to give them her address.

"I feel I am 100 percent innocent," Amy Larson said Friday by phone, before telling her own version of the events described in the police report.

Reported police call set events in motion

Larson said she was returning from the , traveling west on First Street with some vegetables in her backpack, when she stopped to chalk some slogans about 9/11 on the First Street bridge and was approached by a police officer who said someone had made a call about the bridge being defaced.

"Then she quickly saw it was sidewalk chalk and said it was totally fine and no problem," continued Larson, who called the encounter "brief" and "positive," adding that the officer "was being nice at that point."

Moments later, as Larson continued west on First Street, the same officer pulled her patrol car over again to ask for her name, address, birth date and other personal information, Larson said.

"I didn't want to give it to her because I didn't do anything wrong," she said. 

"I said, 'Am I being detained?'" and was told no, Larson continued.

But when she said she wanted to leave, the officer then told her she was being detained, Larson said.

Another officer arrived and the two took Larson into custody, searching her belongings without permission, she said.

"In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine I was going to go to jail"

Taken to the Larson said "the people there pushed me up against a wall, ripping the earrings out of my ears and asking all sorts of personal medical questions."

Larson didn't want to answer the medical questions, she said, because she didn't understand she was being booked into the jail.

"In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine I was going to go to jail for writing in chalk on the bridge," she said.

"I do have a house" and a job, Larson said, but she declined to give police her address "because I fear repercussions," and was booked as a transient.

Larson was in custody until Wednesday evening, she said. Her fellow inmates, many of them mothers, "were very nice to me and each other," she said. "There was no drama."

Bail was initially set at $10,000, Larson said, but as she has no prior criminal or juvenile record she was released pending arraignment Sept. 26.

"They're calling it a felony, but that is just not true in any sort of a way," she said, arguing that her chalk slogans did not cause $400 worth of damage as required for felony vandalism in California.

Chalk and paint considered the same

The definition of vandalism in the state criminal code does not require that markings be permanent in order to be considered "defacement with graffiti," and the c removes chalk markings as well as painted ones.

posted Aug. 14:

As I was riding through the fairly new Park on the Napa River I noticed those cute inspirational chalk writngs on the paths. I'm sure you've all seen these around town. "Have Respect" "Succeed in life" and so forth.

As I rode a bit further I noticed the Napa City graffiti remover Bob, in his familiar truck. I stopped and chatted with him about tagging ...

He said that he was power spraying the chalk off the paths. I felt somewhat disapointed that the city would wash away those 'harmless' little sayings.

He told me that taggers have been spray painting along the chalk with sometimes gang related tags. If left too long the rival taggers will also leave their thumb print and on and on.

"I swear it was not me" 

This week, Larson said the arresting officer told her Tuesday that there had been other chalk graffiti in city parks, that it was costing money to have it cleaned up and that she could be a suspect.

But, she said, "I swear it was not me," adding that she has not chalked her slogans in Napa before.

The slogans she chalked on the bridge included "YOUTUBE WTC BUILDING 7" and "9/11 TRUTH," referring to the 9/11 attacks of 11 years ago that day.

Larson said she is not hiring an attorney and will accept a public defender at her arraignment Sept. 26.

"I feel that this was a really bad abuse of power ... for (the arresting officer) to put somebody in a cage for this," said Larson.

"I was arrested for not showing my papers."

For updates on this story, please click the "Keep me posted" button below.

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Dro October 01, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Curse the Patriot Act.
Dro October 04, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Actually curse those responsible for it.
Jeffrey Wright October 04, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Put down the Bong and back away slooowwwwwly ................
Edmund Alan Geswein November 04, 2012 at 05:03 AM
This is absurd to call this a felony. It doesn't even fit the legal definition. Chalk can be cleaned up in a matter of minutes with water and a rag. I know this from my kindergarten days. This reminds me of the man who was jailed for 2 months for spilling his own blood on the Vandenberg AFB sign. It only took minutes to clean the blood inexpensively, but those few minutes of effort resulted in this man losing 2 months of his life. I can see where such actions would be illegal, but not felonies or misdemeanors. They should be infractions with fines <$100.
Paul Woodward, MD April 08, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Great interview with Amy and Alex Jones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0boCdljIRDM

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